The latest eco-themed feature from Luc Jacquet (who won an Oscar for March of the Penguins) isn’t the typical polemical documentary about the perils of climate change. Jacquet comes at his subject by profiling the brilliant French scientist, adventurer and glaciologist Claude Lorius, who first visited Antarctica in the 1950s as a young man. Lorius devised a simple but ingenious way for measuring changes in the earth’s temperature. After having an epiphany while drinking whisky he diluted with lumps of Antarctic ice, he realised that, “Each air bubble clenched within the polar icefields was an air sample dating back to the time when it got caught in the ice.” These bubbles contained air dating back tens of thousands of years.
As he puts it, “Trapped in every layer of snow is the memory of the climate it was born in: tiny capsules of atmospheric fossils that have traversed time.” By analysing them, he could reveal “the history of the climate since the dawn of time”.
In 1957, the scientific community decided to explore the Antarctic, within the framework of the International Year for Geophysics. Tree men, Jacques Dubois, Claude Lorius and Roland Schlich, lived a whole year in the Charcot station, made of aluminum and buried under the ice in order to be protected from wind and polar cold. Claude Lorius, from the Laboratory for Glaciology and Geophysical Environment, and Roland Schlich from the Institute for Globe Physics of Strasbourg remember together their adventure.
Claude Lorius made a discovery in the Antarctic that has not ceased to preoccupy our world ever since. He is the man who established that global warming is really happening. The human race, anthropos, has become a new geological force, a new factor capable of influencing the climate of a whole planet. Today, he returns to this continent.